Marae part 1

3 March 2007

Two weeks ago Frank’s parents arrived at the airport for their second visit to new Zealand. After they had stayed with us for only 1 day, they had to return to the Netherlands because mum’s brother was suddenly deceased.

One week ago we visited a marae. We were the only white people. Our friend Gina is a maori lady and she was keen to show us ‘her’ marae. She had this special date in mind because on that particularly day a group of students would practice an official ritual to welcome foreigners and for their first trial they wanted us playing (being) the foreigners (together with a number of visitors who were Maori descent). “Having scary whites in the audience would make the test-ritual more real”, she said, full of humour as Gina is.

marae

marae

The welcome is accompanied by spoken recitation and singing. We didn’t understand anything of the words because it happened in their own language, but Gina whispered what was said. Such as: “Now the 2 missing guests are mentioned, because they had to bury their brother.”
Gosh, I was impressed that they compassionately included Frank’s parents in their speech …

Maori rituals are not really comparable to those we know from a church. The Maori culture is not strictly a religion, but more a kind of preservation of their history. Through song, stories and dances their knowledge is transferred to the next generation; especially knowledge of their extensive network of origin. Where most nations worship their gods, Maoris worship their ancestors. They have great respect for the chain of generations going back to the time we were able to save our asses with a bat.

MaraeMaraeWith that in mind I suddenly began to worry about their opinion on deliberate childlessness. My ego to interrupt a million years old chain with my own interfere! Maybe they could see it to me. And they will eat me … “As it is not admitted in so many words; there are the people thrown into a cooking pot back then, when New Zealand was still called Aotearoa”, Gina cackled diabolically.

After the boring (not understood spoken) part of about 45 minutes, the hosts stood in queue like as at a reception. The guests had to walk along the line to shake hands or press noses. I think about half of the approximately 30 hosts dared to give me a nose. The purpose of the nose press is that you take in a collective breath.

Then everyone went to a larger building next to the marae. There were long tables with food. Now I clearly could estimate how many people were there. Perhaps 200. Everyone was talking and directly started to eat. Meanwhile, the group of students performed a dance that looked a little less formal. They were not wearing the grass skirts that you see at the tourist Maori feasts.
MaraeMarae part 1The whole event seemed to have no ‘leadership’, but it seemed like a well-oiled machine. After dinner there was a group of ladies in the large kitchen doing the dishes and we’re going to help. Hoping they wouldn’ t throw us in the freezer for the next time. We and the Maori’s made jokes and fun about the common prejudices and they were absolutely not offended.